Sanctuary principle: Churches ‘right’ to provide refuge real or imagined?

July 21, 2006 at 9:59 am Leave a comment

There has been a lot said over the issue of a Church leader facing charges over providing refuge or sanctuary to member of a rebel soldier.

” The defense of (The Bishop) that the Geneva Convention allows him to give aid and comfort to somebody accused of a crime ”
International law shows some countries do provide for ‘Sanctarum’ mostly European, BUT this is in time of war.

But it is also provided for in rules of war for churches, temples, mosques, places of worship are considered ‘non-combatant areas’ WW2 however changed this and most recent warfare does not follow conventions anymore.

However in ‘Criminal law’ under US law which does not always recognize this, beyonf requiring a warrant.

The principle is based on:
“ancient peoples, including the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Hebrews, recognized a religious “right of asylum”, protecting criminals (or those accused of crime) from legal action to some extent.

This principle was adopted by the early Christian church, and various rules developed for what the person had to do to qualify for protection and just how much protection it was.

In England, King Ethelbert made the first laws regulating sanctuary in about 600 A.D. By Norman times, there had come to be two kinds of sanctuary: All churches had the lower-level kind…”
However …

In the same entry it is also noted James I revoked the same ‘sanctuary’ principle. Spain did allow for some protection to unarmed ‘criminals’ (petty thieves, minor debt offenses, ect.) But even Spanish law draws the line with Armed rebels.

The Vatican does however have a different status- if the case involved the Holy See – which is an Embassy of the ‘State of Vatican City’.

One case often cited in Jurisprudence was when Jose Manuel Noriega his in the Papal Nuncio in Panama City, US troops and federal agents did not pursue Noriega into the Nuncio- not because it was a church – but- because it was an Embassy.

It did not stop them from blasting the building with intense rock music to get him to come out and surrender. (THE VOLUME LEVEL SET SO HIGH I NEED ALL CAPS TO SHOW THE INTENSITY!) But, had Noriega fled into a regular church it would have been a different mater.

Now, my knowledge on Noriega comes from the Film Noriega, (I had a tiny little part) on Showtime, such a shame film was never shown on HBO or sold here. But, the entire issue of Sanctuary was settled in Federal court when Noriega’s lawyers wrongfully made the claim US troops and federal agents violated local Panamanian law and the Geneva Convention to nab him though the music of Van Halen and The Who at mega-volume levels so high the vibration levels made structural repairs necessary afterwards.

Anyhow since Spanish and US law is considered in Jurisprudence as the sum of all Philippine laws it would be interesting to see if actual charges were filled – but- from a public opinion and church relations point.,, the cases makes an interesting study to law students and political science students alike.

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